Our next Spain post comes from Emily Cipes over in Barcelona Fairfield.
Months ago I got a call from Gretchen Thomas, our wine director, asking me if I was going to be available to go to Spain around the end of March. “Hmmm….let me think….Yup. I’m available.” A month later, my ticket was booked and the itinerary was sent out. Day 1- tour Barcelona. Day 2- Tour Montsant with Rene Barbier. Everything after that was just gravy. I’ve been drinking and loving Rene’s wines since the day Gretchen introduced them to me nearly two years ago. Clos Mogador, Laurona, Laurona 6 Vinyes, and the ever drooled-after but never-consumed Espectacle.
Needless to say, by the time we got to Falset (the small town that is the “capital” of Montsant) I was excited. Excited in the way that sports fans get when they’re about to meet their favorite player in person. Only I’m not just going to shake Rene Barbier’s hand, he’s going to show me around his vineyards. As I tried to play it cool, we got into his rickety ten passenger van to take the drive up the mountains to his Clos Mogador vineyards. Had I known the ensuing drives would have been so death-defying with Rene answering his cell phone and talking excitedly with his hands while driving up steep one way roads with treacherous switch backs, I might have been a little less excited. Nonetheless we did manage, miraculously, to make it up the mountain to Clos Mogador.
He showed us Clos Mogador, a vineyard settled beautifully into the hillside. Just as we were appreciating the beauty, Rene says “Vamos” and we all pile back into the van for another rollercoaster ride to the Laurona vineyards. We arrive at a parcel that looks like a patch of very well-trimmed grape vines, that have somehow started growing in the middle of a forest clearing. As we stand in front of the vines, Rene explains that by letting all these other things (flowers, wild herbs, grasses, almond and olive trees) grow around the vines, it helps to add to the flavor of the final product. We pile back into the van once more and begin the drive to Espectacle. We all quietly lean right and left as the truck makes its way up the mountainside, praying the van will stay on the road as Rene talks with his hands, occasionally stopping altogether while he finishes his sentence. However, the second we step out of the van all shop talk ceases.
We look around in awe at the breathtaking view that makes the Espectacle vineyard so…spectacular. The view is nothing short of breathtaking, with ancient stone retaining walls help to terrace the steep hill where these 150 year old vines are. The only thing more amazing than the view is the love and passion with which Rene talks about his vines and his wines. Hours later, as a meal filled with good people and amazing wines comes to an end, Gretchen asks each of us that she brought on this trip what we have come away from the day with.
When it comes to me there is only one answer: the true definition of terrior. Terrior is a wine vocabulary word that every sommelier knows, reads about and obsesses about. It’s the important questions we ask when studying far away regions. What’s the climate? The soil type? The topography? And we often become caught up in whether or not this varietal or that varietal is really suited to this climate or that climate without ever stepping foot into a vineyard. At its heart, terrior is what the earth gives to the wine, and Rene’s wines seem to be giving back extraordinary quality based on what they get…love, respect and a little tiny bit of help at doing what it is that they already do best.